A quarter of Australian government’s half-price flights sell on first day | Tourism (Australia)

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Virgin Australia is set to record its highest number of bookings in one day since before the pandemic began, while Qantas and Jetstar recorded 130,000 bookings in under hours, following the release of the federal government’s half-price flights.

But the tourism industry says the boost will not be enough to fill the void left by the end of the jobkeeper payment.

About a quarter of the available subsidised flights were purchased on Thursday.

It comes as the Queensland government announced an early end to the Brisbane lockdown, lifting restrictions from midday on Thursday, in order to avoid traffic chaos ahead of the Easter long weekend.

More than 50,000 Qantas fares and 45,000 Jetstar fares were sold in the first 11 hours of the half-off flight program, which launched on Thursday, with Maroochydore, the Gold Coast, Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart among the most popular destinations. By 3pm they had sold a combined 130,000 flights.

Virgin Australia said it was on track to record its biggest day of bookings since the coronavirus pandemic began, recording a 600% increase in flight bookings, a 600% increase in flight searches, and a tripling of website traffic compared to last week.

Nine of the top 10 routes booked since the offer opened at midnight have involved a Queensland port, the airline said in a statement, and almost one-fifth of flights were to or from the Gold Coast.

The Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive, Daniel Gschwind, said the early end to the greater Brisbane lockdown, coupled with the release of half-price flights, was a “huge relief”.

“We are hugely relieved – I think it’s restored my faith in the Easter bunny,” Gschwind said.

Gschwind said while the half-price flights were welcome, they were not enough to support accommodation providers still reeling from the loss of international visitors.

“It’s a measure we support, and we urge people to get on board with it,” he said. “But it does not alleviate all the stress on providers who are still hurting from the international border closures and domestic border closures,” he said.

Gschwind said the tourism industry would be pushing state and territory governments as well as the federal government to adopt a national standard for lockdowns and to change domestic border rules, so people are not locked out of their home state.

“I think people are worried about being stuck on the wrong side of a border, which would affect them getting home and getting back to work,” he said.

The industry will also push for a swifter rollout of the vaccine program, which is 3.4m doses behind its initial target of administering 4m doses by the end of March, and one million doses short of being on track to meet the revised target of 4m doses by the end of April.

“The vaccine is the next element that hopefully will give everyone the confidence that the regular lockdowns and border closures will no longer occur,” he said.

The $1.2bn half-off flight program will run until 31 July, or until flights book out, and covers 18 destinations, six of which are in Queensland.

The federal transport minister, Michael McCormack, told reporters on Thursday that there would be 800,000 tickets released for sale in the three-month offer – of which about 200,000 have already been sold.

McCormack said Australians needed a holiday. He urged people not to be deterred by the risk of future lockdowns.

“Get in early,” he said. “Plan, make sure that you have that holiday on us. These Brisbane lockdowns, yes, we’d prefer, of course, that everything was open for business but that is a decision taken by the Queensland government … but as I say there’s plenty of places in Australia crying out for visitors and this scheme enables them to do just that.”

McCormack said the vaccine rollout “is going to be an exercise in patience”.

“I urge and encourage [Australians] to be patient,” he said.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: A quarter of Australian government’s half-price flights sell on first day | Tourism (Australia)

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